Relational Victimization, Loneliness and Depressive Symptoms: Indirect Associations Via Self and Peer Reports of Rejection Sensitivity

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Zimmer-Gembeck, Melanie J
Trevaskis, Sarah
Nesdale, Drew
Downey, Geraldine A
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2014
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Theory suggests that aversive social experiences generate emotional maladjustment because they prompt the development of a hypersensitivity to perceiving and overreacting to rejection. The primary aim of this study was to test hypothesized direct and indirect (via rejection sensitivity) links of overt/relational victimization and friendship conflict with early adolescents' loneliness and depressive symptoms. Participants were 366 Australian early adolescents age 10-14 years (50.5 % girls). Using both a self-report and peer-report measure of rejection sensitivity, no difference was found when comparing the significant correlations of each measure with loneliness and depressive symptoms. Tests of direct and indirect associations with structural equation modeling showed that adolescents higher in relational victimization reported more loneliness and depressive symptoms and part of this association was by way of their greater self-reports of rejection sensitivity and their peers' identification that they were higher in rejection sensitivity. Additionally, relational victimization was the only unique correlate of emotional maladjustment, and adolescents who reported more overt victimization were identified by their peers as higher in rejection sensitivity. Finally, gender and rejection sensitivity were tested as moderators. No gender moderation was found, but friendship conflict was associated more strongly with emotional maladjustment for adolescents low, rather than high, in rejection sensitivity. These findings identify relational victimization as particularly salient for emotional maladjustment both directly and indirectly via links with elevated rejection sensitivity. They show how rejection sensitivity and aversive experiences may contribute independently and jointly to emotional maladjustment for both boys and girls.

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Journal of Youth and Adolescence

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43

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4

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Specialist studies in education

Applied and developmental psychology

Clinical and health psychology

Social and personality psychology

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